Tag Archives: education reform

Counterpoint to Friedman’s Assessment of PISA

Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times, has noted that the United States continues to trail other countries on the PISA assessment of student learning in primary and secondary school.

One important note on the PISA tests, and other international benchmarks of student learning, is that the United States has  never led the globe in student achievement — it has always been about where it is today, sitting around 15th place internationally, yet we have the largest GDP and most productive workforce. This suggests that educational achievement is the only factor in productivity and employment.  As Friedman notes, this is partly due to the fact that we once had an economy rich in manufacturing — which required less skill in the workforce. Some believe the preference toward education and skill is overstated though.   Harry Holzer and labor economists have shown that there is still, and will continue to be, a significant middle skill job sector in America.  What they find is that these middle jobs will require some postsecondary training — in programs that may only be a few weeks or months at venues like community colleges.

Most American workers (about 70 percent currently) do not work in jobs that require a college degree (nor does 70 percent of the population hold the degree).  Even as the country becomes more “high tech” and more “new economy” only 40 percent of workers (in the highest of estimates) will need a college degree.  The major gap in learning is for workers who will need “some” postsecondary training, but not a degree.  Our educational system doesn’t address the educational needs for future non-degree holding workers as well as it does for those continuing to a four year college.

Friedman is also correct that students who do best on PISA tests feel some ownership over their education.  America could build more student “ownership” over education by providing more than one track of learning.  This could happen by building out a significant career and technical training program in America’s schools.  The Harvard Graduate School of Education makes a similar argument in its important Pathways to Prosperity report.


Recapping Lincoln Education and Land Policy @LandPolicy Conference

This post is somewhat belated.  The 8th Annual Land Policy Conference was held by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, MA in early June, and this year’s topic was Education, Land, and Location.

Eric Hanushek, an educational and urban economist from Stanford, was the keynote speaker where he gave an overview of research that he had conducted for the OECD that identified a economic benefit to the United States of somewhere in the range of $40-50 trillion dollars (in present terms) associated with closing the achievement gap between minority and white students in America.

The rest of the conference was made up of thorough discussions of national and international research on how land policy and education are inter-related.  Presenters (and chapters in the upcoming volume) will provide a vast overview on some relatively traditional research topics – including how school quality is capitalized in home values and why people without children in schools still support taxes for education (the answer is that it supports home value and community quality according to William Fischel’s “Home-Voter Hypothesis).  The conference papers also covered how newer policies like school choice and residential mobility programs affect individual outcomes in education and the labor market.  While there was some disagreement on the topic, choice and mobility might contribute to further inequality – but this could be just a short term effect.  There were also great papers on homeschooling, the role of segregation in educational outcomes, and how school choice affects municipal transportation costs.

I was encouraged to see urban economics, urban planning, education policy, and land policy being discussed in nuanced and innovative ways! I learned a lot at the conference and the work of the scholars at the Lincoln Conference has influenced by dissertation.


Book Launch Event – Preparing Today’s Students, January 30th, 2013

Join Laura Perna and contributors for a book launch for Preparing Today’s Students For Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America on January 30th at 5:30 pm.  I co-authored a chapter with Laura Wolf-Powers in the book titled: “Aligning Secondary and Post-Secondary Credentialization with Economic Development Strategy or ‘If Low Educational Attainment = Poor Metropolitan Competitiveness, What Can be Done About It”


Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America offers useful insights into how to bridge the higher education gap and provide urban workers with the educational qualifications and skills they need for real-world jobs. Written by researchers in education and urban policy, this volume takes a comprehensive approach. It informs our understanding of the measurement and definition of the learning required by employers. It examines the roles that different educational sectors and providers play in workforce readiness. It analyzes the institutional practices and public policies that promote the educational preparation of today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs. Please join Laura Perna, the book’s editor and Professor at Penn’s Graduate School of Education and panelists for a discussion on the books central themes. Panelists include Thomas Bailey, the George and Abby O’Neill Professor of Economics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and Director of the Community College Research Center; Lori Shorr, Philadelphia’s Chief Education Officer; Alan Ruby, Senior Fellow, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania; and Laura Wolf-Powers, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning, School of Design, University of Pennsylvania.

Tweet about this event using the hashtag #PreparingStudents

Education Reform in Metropolitan America

Many people have seen recent documentaries like Waiting for Superman and may have heard of people who are making changes for disadvantaged youth like Geoffrey Canada who founded the Harlem Children’s Zone.  The recent discourse on education in America presents a bleak picture that is tempered with rays of hope like highly effective charter schools and mentoring programs for students.

Critics may note that these programs are not easily scaled, but there is great research happening looking to bring education reform to scale.  Operation Public Education at the University of Pennsylvania has been working with a number of school districts and national stakeholders to create a new framework for evaluating school success.  The book to look to on the new framework is A Grand Bargain for Education Reform Theodore Hershberg and Claire Robertson-Kraft.  It creates a framework that builds buy-in from teachers, administrators, policy advocates, and other stakeholders.

Keep your eyes open as this is a hot topic and other groups including some major foundations are doing research and creating policy recommendations.